Friday, September 19, 2014

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Gulnaz Mitchell!

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Gulnaz Mitchell!

There is nothing I love more than a fun, happy, eye catching cake and this is why I could spend hours on this cake artist’s Facebook page. Gulnaz Mitchell’s cakes are bold and colorful and always make me smile! I’ve known Gulnaz’s work for quite some time now and have become a huge fan but always wanted to learn more about the artist behind the is my chance!

Introducing Gulnaz……….

Name: Gulnaz Mitchell
Business Name: Heavenlycakes4you by Gulnaz Mitchell
Location: Katikati, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Twitter: I have a twitter account. But never “twittered” and funny thing, I even forgot the password to my twitter account. 
Blog: I am thinking to start my blog very soon

***Tell us about yourself ***
I am originally from Russia, Kazan, which is 800 km east from Moscow, where six months of the year it is snow and ice and temperatures drop down to -37C in winter and could be up to 35C in summer. I grew up in “communist” Russia, being a “Pioneer”, which was a youth movement operated by the communist party, a very tough period of communist ideology, when anything “western” was forbidden, during a period when we didn’t have supermarkets full of food and we did lots of home baking. It seems like so long time ago and it’s so different from the life in Russia today. So I’ve got my love for baking from my Mum who is an excellent baker and cook. 
When I was a little girl, I was always thinking how it would be cool to grow up next to the sea and live in a place where it was always nice and warm. Now I live only 100 meters away from the ocean. I moved to beautiful and sunny New Zealand 12 years ago, married and blessed with three beautiful children, two girls and a boy.

***Tell us about your cake business***
I am a home based cake decorator, taking cake orders for around two years now.

***Is there a story behind the name of your business/ How did you come up with your business name?***
Oh, this question! LOL! I wish I was more creative and original with the name for my business. I took the name heavenlycakes4you only because when I was building my website, the name “heavenly cakes” was already taken. Of course, back then I didn’t think much about the originality of the name for the business, as long as it had the word “cakes” in it. I am thinking to rename it very soon.

***When did you start decorating?*** 
I attribute becoming a cake addict to my children - my eldest daughter was diagnosed with Coeliac disease (gluten intolerance) when she was three, when my youngest was only one month old. It was hard to find gluten free treats back then here in NZ, so I decided to bake cakes myself. I only did maybe three cakes a year, because it was hard to do anything when you have three kids under three. When my youngest started full time kindy, I had more time to focus on baking and learning new techniques.

***Where did you learn the art of cake decorating? ***
I am a self-taught decorator, who spent many hours watching Youtube and Craftsy classes, learning from tutorials generously put on the internet and spending time before bed reading cake decorating books. Just recently I’ve been to Margaret Carter’s class on how to make her famous unicorn. So there is still plenty to learn and improve one’s skills.

***Do you have a signature style?***
Bright, happy, warm and colourful – this is my signature style. It’s how I see and feel it and I want people to feel it too. There should be no sadness in sweet sugar creations.

***What is your favorite decorating tool?**
My favorite decorating tools are round cutters, Dresden tool, Bone tool and paint brushes. I am totally in love with cake painting at the moment.

***What decorating tool is on your wish list?***
Oh, I love this question, because my list could be so long!:)). My husband won’t have any trouble thinking about what he should get me for my birthday or Christmas next time! Well, just a couple of thing from my list - Airbrush machine and “Kitchen Aid” (believe me or not I still don’t have one, it’s such a big thing here, because it’s so expensive in New Zealand).

***What is the best class or tutorial that you have taken?***
There are so many great tutorials I’ve watched over the years, but my “eye opener” in cake decorating was Jessica Harris’s video tutorial on how to cover your cake with buttercream and her upside down method. It used to be on her blog, now you can find it on her Craftsy class.

***What is your best tip or trick?***
I think my best trick would be that you can create beautiful gumpaste flowers using one round cutter. I have a few tutorials on this topic. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on buying expensive cutters and veiners and there are simple ways to make beautiful flowers.

***Who is your “Cake Crush”?***
Oh, I have so many “Cake Crushes” over the years, Kara fromKara's Couture Cakes and Sarah from The Cake Tin ( with their gravity defying creations, Verusca Walker and Margaret Carter with their clean sculpted cakes, Kay from Kaykes with her incredible sculpted and airbrushed creations, Violet from The Violet Cake Shop™ with her fantastic party cake designs, Lisa from LM Cake Design (Lisa Templeton From Denheath) with her gorgeous gumpaste flowers. My biggest crush is Neli Josefsen with her unforgettable and absolutely stunning cakes. I always impatiently wait for her next masterpiece. 

***What is your best advice for a beginner?***
Practice, practice and practice! Be patient and don’t be afraid to start your cake again if you’re not happy with it.

***What is your favorite cake/filling flavors?***
My favourite cake is a traditional Russian honey cake with caramel filling (the cake consists of 8-12 separately baked thin layers). 

***Tell us some other interesting, fun info about yourself.***
-I went to special musical school for ten years learning to play piano in Russia, 
-speak three languages, 
-never tried “Burger King” in my life,
- I am talking when I sleep,
-my best design ideas came to me when I suddenly woke up at night,
-I can’t swim freestyle.

***What hobbies or interests do you have outside of caking?***
My biggest hobbies outside caking is fitness, running and weight lifting,
traveling and reading. I also love renovating and redecorating. I already have a project lined up for myself, to redecorate my daughter’s bedroom when I have a break between cake orders. I also help my husband with interior design and colour choices for his business. 


Thank you Gulnaz! It was a pleasure learning more about you! ♥

For more great cakes from Gulnaz head on over to her page. While you’re there check out her Ecwid store too!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Robin Apted!

Another one of my longtime favorite decorators is Robin Apted! Her cakes have always floored me with their clean, perfect lines and amazing realism! You will be in awe too.....

Introducing.... Robin Apted!

Business Name: Unusual cakes for you
Location: Tasmania Australia
Facebook name/URL:


***Tell us about yourself***
I have been with my husband for 24 years.
I always lie about my age
Have 2 sons aged 21 and 22, a daughter aged 7.
2 beautiful daughter in laws and my little grandson is 3.

I am an internet taught cake decorator and have never taken any formal classes.

I used to love sewing but these days the sewing machine is very dusty and doesn’t get a second look
I always take a few months off making cakes for customers each year to allow time for myself to make what I want in sugar and just relax and experiment.
My passion is sugar flowers and birds. I am impatiently waiting for some spare time now to make a few birds and flowers for fun. 

***When did you start decorating?***
I have always made cakes for my kids, although up until 2 years ago they were only the basic cakes that were in woman’s weekly cake books 
2 years ago in August I made my daughters Ariel cake and from there It started, I started my Facebook page and never looked back. (Definitely don’t look back hahhahaha its too embarrassing )

***Where did you learn cake decorating?***
Google and YouTube and along the way I have been fortunate to make friends with some amazing talented decorators that are generous with their help and knowledge

***Do you have a signature style?***
I would like to have one but no unfortunately I don’t think so, I guess I just try to stick to realism as much rather than fantasy

***What inspires you?***
Nature. Every day I see a flower or bird and think god I would love some spare time to try and make that in sugar.

***What is your favorite medium or technique to work with?***
Ganache I only ever use ganache and flowerpaste at the moment I use Menina flowerpaste. I love Platinum Paste but it’s just too expensive to have shipped to Australia

***What is your favorite decorating tool?***
Squires kitchen and Sugar Art studio cutters and veiners. I’m a little obsessed with them all

***What is the one decorating tool on your wishlist?***
Definitely more cutters and veiners from Sugar Art studio and a large dehydrator.

***Best class or tutorial that you have taken?***
I have taken a few Craftsy classes (

) and watched dozens of YouTube classes. But none really come to mind, generally I just try to watch a half dozen different YouTube ones and pick bits from each one that I think works best then have a play for myself

***What is your best tip or trick?***
Even if you think you have perfected your technique don’t close your mind to new ideas.

***Who is your “Cake Crush”? ***
Oh wow this is tough, really I don’t just have one. There are so many I admire and each one for a different reason. How can I pick one when there are so many different aspects of cake decorating?
Chistine from La lavande cake boutique for Flowers
Jacinta from Kidacity for jaw dropping figures
Lesley from Royal Bakery for flawless
Peggy from Peggy Does Cake for buttercream perfection
Calli from Callicious Cakes for painting
Faye from Faye Cahill Cake Design for elegance
You Loren because I’m your number one stalker remember 
See now I just gave you 7 and I haven’t even started

***What is your best advice for a beginner?***
1. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else. Use them as inspiration yes and aspire to be as good one day but don’t be harsh on yourself.
2. Have someone that you respect to be honest with their opinion when you ask how does this look . Honest criticism or advice is what makes you grow as an artist. If we all ways receive false praise how do we honestly grow and learn.
3. If you have nothing nice to say don't say it on someone’s business page. And think beyond how the cake looks, even if the design is not your thing, look at the talent and work gone into creating it. 

***What is your favorite cake/filling flavors?***
Jaffa mud cake, orange and lemon curd filling covered with chocolate ganache

***Tell us one “Fun Fact” about yourself***
I’m a ditz and I have an appalling memory. I mean seriously bad like I forget where I park my car at the school every day when I go pick her up or drop my daughter off.

Thank you Robin! It was a pleasure learning more about you!!!

Don’t forget to check out Robin’s video tutorials (some free ones too!)

Monday, September 8, 2014

Guest Contributor: The Business of Baking!

Once again please welcome our guest contributor:
Michelle Green from The Business of Baking!

Should I Open A Store?
by Michelle Green

With the plethora of home businesses closing and opening a bit like popcorn – with a lot of noise and not much substance – it can seem like the only people who are surviving in the industry as those with an actual shopfront. Having a shopfront is not for everyone though, and in today's article I want to take you through some of the things to consider when deciding if you want to build your business outside of home. There are plenty of things to think about, and benefits and down sides to both business models, but here are a few things to consider when opening a store:

  •  Do you want to be tied to specific hours? Even if it's a studio that is “by appointment only,” there is still a natural expectation that a human being is actually IN the store. This means you commit yourself or someone else to being there a reasonable amount of hours per week.
  •  It's a much longer term commitment. When you work from home, it's pretty easy to shut down your operations if you choose to. With a shopfront, that would mean getting out of a lease (or not renewing it), cancelling contracts for things like phones and water and so on. It's just not as easy to get out of a shop-based business.
  • It's a bigger financial commitment, but also potentially a bigger financial gain. I know plenty of cake makers who built up really profitable businesses from home so I'm not saying you need a shop in order to be successful.  However, having a shop generally allows you to expand your offerings, so you might have a retail line of products, a place to teach larger scale classes, cake stand rental services and enough space to take on more orders. Because you'll have more space and resources, this enables you to do more than you could without that space and resources.
  • Having a shopfront often forces you to be more organised and procrastinate less because at some point, in theory anyway, you've got to go home! You can't just drag home all the tools and ingredients back home to make those 300 roses in front of the TV like you used to.
  • You will need to charge more because your costs are greater, but the advantage to this is that customers are usually more willing to pay more from a shop than a home based business. It's about their perception, not about your skill or talent.
  • Opportunities for cash flow are easier to implement – in a retail environment it's a lot easier to offer a weekly special, or try out new products or cupcake flavours. As the store is there set hours, people can pop in at specific times to get these kind of things, so it's a lot easier to manage. In a home based environment where you are making cakes, you're limited to that one product to bring in money – until such time as you can teach, or offer tutorials, or other forms of income.
For every cake maker there is a different answer to this problem. Sometimes we start off wanting one thing and then realise our business model takes us another. I've met plenty of people who say that they really want to own their dream bakery, only to open it and then crash and burn a year later. Similarly I've met lots of people who don't want to ever work out of home, but their success starts to require commercial space so they end up having to move out anyway. In all of this decision making process I actually think the debate is not about store versus home, but about what kind of business you're wanting to grow. Are you wanting the boutique, hand made, small scale and exclusive bakery? Or would you rather be making lots of different products at a higher volume? Working out what you actually want to do is almost more important than working out where you are going to do it from.

Copyright 2014 Michelle Green The Business of Baking All rights reserved.

Michelle is a food writer, trained chef and pastry chef with a huge amount of knowledge and helpful insight into running a cake business. She is also the sole author of the blog, "The Business of Baking"  "The Business of Baking" is specific to the baking and decorating industry and teaches you how to make a real living doing what you love. Michelle started cake decorating at sixteen years old and eventually turned her hobby into a business by becoming a pastry chef, then opening a custom cake business and owning it for ten years. These days, Michelle is an educator, consultant and author who mentors other decorators in business, proving that it's possible to run a business and maintain your sanity at the same time. In 2014 and 2015 Michelle will be teaching live classes all about running a sustainable business. More information on her courses can be found at

Friday, September 5, 2014

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Sachiko Windbiel

Sugar Artist Spotlight: Sachiko Windbiel

I have been a longtime fan of this talented lady's work! Her adorable fondant figures have such a unique style and distinct personality! Sachiko has magic in her watch her mold a lump of fondant into a little person is nothing short of awe inspiring. I had the pleasure of taking Sachiko's figure modeling class at her studio in New York City late last year and it was one of the most fun and memorable days of my caking journey. A full day of playing with fondant, talking about cake, learning a new skill and having a lot of laughs with the one and only Sachiko!!!  

Name: Sachiko Windbiel
Business Name: mimicafe Union
Location: Manhattan New York

Facebook name/URL: mimicafe Union @New York

Blog: (Japanese)
Blog:!blog/c2481  (Tutorial etc.)
Other: (video)

***Who is Sachiko Windbiel?***
I was working at Restaurant Service for long years in Japan. And I also researching for my life work. When my first trip of U.S.A. I think 2004. It was my first seeing when I discovered the pastry work in U.S.A. I have never known Fondant at that time. Sugar work was very inspiring to me, so much so that I could feel my heart expand when I looked at their creations and I felt that pastry work was a destiny calling. However, I did not know how to proceed with pursuing this dream and I continued to work at restaurants in Ishikawa, Japan. I just put the passion into a box and rocked in my heart. After more investigation and soul searching, I was finally able to begin my new path in 2008 by relocating to New York City to attend culinary school.

I relocated to New York City in 2008 to attend a culinary school that specialized in a vegetarian and healthful food preparation techniques. (I'm not a vegetarian but I was interested in healthy food, and that's why I went cooking school call Natural Gourmet Institute. ) After graduating, thanks to the help of one of my instructors, I was able to land an internship and eventually a position at a custom made cake company call "How Sweet It Is" The work there was very inspiring to me, and I felt my box contained my passion of Sugar art was explosion that pastry work was a destiny calling. Obviously, the pasty industry uses a lot of Sugar, Butter, Oil, etc.; ingredients that are quite opposed to those espoused by my teachers at my healthful cooking school. I was torn as to what I should do, but alas the charm and artistry of the pastry world won out. And besides, I believed that pastry is a great way to make people smile and have fun and that's something that's very important to me.
Unfortunately, the company I was working at closed, and I was unsure where to turn next. Then, the next chapter made it self clear… to start a small business- something that I had always dreamed about. I was considering Cupcakes, but as you know, everybody seems to be making cupcakes nowadays, and cupcakes seem to be available on every other corner. Then I had a fun idea; How about Cupcake & Cake Toppers?-- kind of like Cake Accessories.... And thus I began mimicafe Union, a source for all kinds of Artistic and Fun Cupcake & Cake Toppers.
It's great work and I really love creating custom made, unique toppers for special events, toppers which customers often choose to save as sweet memory keepsakes of their special occasions. Actually this is my philosophy of life; Live a Happy Life and Cherish your Sweet Memories, they're always good to keep nearby. If I can help my customers with these happy moments and memories, I feel I have fulfilled my mission in life.

***When did you start decorating?***
Ever since I was child, I've always liked to make easy cakes and cookies . But, my real start was when I came to New York in 2008.

***Where did you learn cake decorating?*** 
After graduating from cooking school, when I began interning at the pastry shop - and was lucky enough to be hired on at.

***Do you have any formal training?***
I am self taught and I am always trying to better develop my skills by taking on bigger and more diverse challenges. My parents gave me a lot of exposure to great illustrations with the following books/artists: Osamu Tezuka (Cartoonist, Comic Artist) (I think I first got to see his work when I was only 3 years old.), the Peter Rabbit stories of Beatrix Potter (especially "The Tale of Ginger and Pickles"), the Brambly Hedge Series (All of my tiny inspirations are from these books) And also, my parents encouraged me to draw a lot of pictures when I was child. And I was also very interested in the Animation, or Anime, industry of Japan. So that give me a lot of images and details.

***Do you have a signature style?***
I'm so happy that I have been getting feedback via the social media and many people seem to now be able to recognize my work as soon as they see it, it's very exciting!!

***What is your favorite decorating tool?***
I find that my best tools are the ones I didn't have to go to the store to get; my fingers --my CLEAN fingers, that is, ha ha.... And also another item, although it is not for decorating, is Canned Air, I love using it! It's an easy way to make sure the Topper's surface is dust free!! I especially use it before I begin a topper photo shoot.

***What is your best tip or trick?***
It's always fun to discover new ways to get the job done !! I have some of tips already for everybody to check out in the blog section of my website.!blog/c2481  

I want to always try to share more tips as I figure them out, however, I often forget to post, lazy me!!!

***Who is your “Cake Crush”? ***
The first time in my life I saw Fondant and Fondant on a Cake was when visited the United States, I believe it was in 2004. I was in Chicago and one day I was just taking a walk around the neighborhood where I was staying when I happened upon this small shop called "Cake Girls". It was Halloween and in the shop was a Halloween theme cake and it really knocked me out. I had never seen such a cake... I had never seen fondant either! After I returned to Japan, I stayed in contact with the owners and made plans to visit them again soon after... it was a crazy, great travel experience!! 

***What is your best advice for a beginner?***
I would just like to say that the best way to approach your work is to have fun with it and to try to appreciate any obstacles as opportunities to challenge yourself as well as opportunities to learn new skills and approaches. Of course some days will be better than others, but if you are able to try to maintain this mind set, on balance you'll appreciate that pastry work is a pretty sweet gig!!  Here are three more things to keep in mind:
No.1 "Have Emotion" Making Cake or toppers is your special gift to people as guests or clients. I always focus on the idea that if I can surprise myself, then I have a pretty good chance to surprise the client and their guests, so just focus and concentrate on you work and put your heart into it!
No.2 "Be Unique" It's always special if you can give your clients or guests a one of a kind experience.
No.3 "Make Lasting Memories" When the event day arrives, your work has it's moment in the spotlight...If you've done the job right your toppers or cakes will give a sweet memory for all party guest to take home with them.

***What is your favorite cake/filling flavors?***
Actually, I mostly like the edge of the cake where if might be burned or damaged, LOL!

***What is the decorating tool that is on your wish list?**
I need another couple pairs of hands - fingers are best tool ever!!

***What is new or upcoming for Sachiko?***
My new tutorial online video by CakeMade is coming in September!!!

P.S. my English is second language, so it was a very big challenge!!! But I am confident anybody can get a lot of new ideas and inspirations from these tutorials!!!

Thank you Sachiko!  Wishing you all the best and continued success!  Can't wait to take another class with you... See you in NYC! :)